Does the sun ACTUALLY cause wrinkles? What kind of procedures are available if I already have sun damage?
Yes, yes, yes. Burns, as well as tans, accumulate to cause wrinkles, discoloration, unevenness in skin texture and thickness, and skin cancer. Many things can be done to improve the wrinkles you already have. For prevention: a broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher before you go out, and every two hours after that. Do not tan in the sun or under a bulb. To treat wrinkles you already have there are topical products like tretinoin, retinol and other product lines; Botox injections, injectable fillers, chemical peels and laser treatments. You should see a dermatologist to figure out what combination of interventions would work best for you.
I tan pretty easily, and I rarely burn; am I at high risk for cancer? Who is at high risk?
People who tan easily do have a little protection built in but not much. Tans AND burns increase cancer risk, not just burns. Avoid tanning by wearing protective clothing. Repeatedly using sunscreen is strongly recommended. People with multiple burns are, on average, at higher risk but all skin types can get skin cancer.
How often should I put on sunblock? Does it matter if I do a mist or just lay it on thick?
Before you go out, and repeat every two hours if you’re out that long. Being in your car counts as being out. If you are in water you need a water-resistant 80 minute sunscreen to put on every 80 minutes, and more often if you are toweling off. A mist will not cut it! Whether it’s a cream or a spray, it needs to go on like a lotion, not like a cologne. If you underdose then an SPF 30 becomes no better than an SPF 4 or even less.
But WAIT. Doesn’t sunscreen cause cancer too? Why should I bother wearing it?
No. There was a study about 15 years ago (not that well designed) which suggested people who put on sunscreen were more likely to feel “invincible” and stay out for longer periods of time without putting on more. But if you put on sunscreen before you go out and reapply it regularly, you will be greatly protected from skin cancer. This is not a controversial opinion.
Am I at higher risk for skin cancer if I have tattoos?
No. Some people have allergic reactions to tattoo dyes and there could be infection risk if the tattoo isn’t done sterilely, but there is no known increased skin cancer risk.
Skin cancer doesn’t run in my family. Should I still be worried?
Yes. Genetics plays a part but is not the sole determinant of who will get skin cancer. Your own personal history of sun exposure is much more predictive of your skin cancer risk than your family background.
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